You were not born with everything you need to lead well, live well, or contribute well. You were endowed with certain natural traits, talents, values, and strengths from birth and from your story. But to give to the world what is truly needed from you, you must develop your strengths and add to your capacity.
Beyond your personality, talents, and spiritual gifts, your capacity to contribute is bolstered by what you choose to add to your leadership core through the “double e’s” of experience and education. Education and experience enhance who you are and strengthen your strengths.
Education and experience are two paths that lead from ignorance to knowledge. In our coaching classes at Western Seminary, we often introduce students to the Knowledge Model, which highlights how education and experience each provide an important and distinct path to knowledge. Here’s a summary:
- Ignorance. In most things, you are ignorant. In fact, your ignorance is so deep that you are ignorant that you are ignorant – you don’t know that you don’t know.
I hammered this point home (accidentally) a few months ago while training a group in Missouri. I said, “For instance, I don’t know anything about flying an aircraft carrier.” The statement was met with a few turned heads and upturned brows. My spidey senses told me something was off, so I asked what the concern was. A very polite retired pastor gently said, “You don’t fly an aircraft carrier because it’s a ship.” I replied quickly, “Well, there you go. See, I didn’t know what I didn’t know about aircraft carriers. That was total ignorance on display!”
Ignorance is where you start on each and every topic. And there are two paths out of ignorance: delivery and discovery (aka, education and experience).
- Delivery. When you become aware that you don’t know something, you cross the line from “I don’t know that I don’t know” to “I know that I don’t know.” If you know that you don’t know (and you care), you will seek out the knowledge that is missing. When you do this, you receive education from those who deliver the knowledge to you.
These days you can get knowledge delivered from a huge variety of sources: books, teachers, Google, online courses, Wikipedia, videos, mentors, and the list goes on. What all these have in common is that they leverage an outside source of expertise to deliver the knowledge you seek. This is the typical path to knowledge.
- Discovery. The other path to knowledge leads through discovery. This occurs when you learn something, but you don’t realize you’ve learned it. In other words, “you don’t know that you know.”
You pick up all kinds of things through experience, but you fail to know that you know something until you gain the insight that you know what you have learned. (You might need to read that sentence a few times.) The ah-ha moment comes when you recognize (or “discover”) that you know something. Often this discovery comes when you assimilate various bits of knowledge in a new and practical way.
For instance, when you consider whether to take a new job, you might struggle with whether it is a good fit or not. Certainly you want to educate yourself about the job, the expectations and the organization, but you will also need to discover some things about you: your values, your goals, your skills, your ambitions, your preferences, and so on. And you likely will have to ponder for a while the priority of these factors. All that information is within you, but you need to access it in a new and practical way. When you do, you discover your way forward. All that information got inside you through your experiences, but it lay dormant until you discovered it and could use it.
- Knowledge. Only when you know something and you know that you know it can you act on it, leverage it, put it to use for good. This state of knowledge is marked by confidence and ability.
A solid development plan relies on both delivery and discovery, education and experience. Take a few moments to consider your own development. What intentional educational opportunities do you need to engage? How do you learn best? What experiences have provided rich rewards? What new experiences should you seek?